Weaklings and whiners blame temptation and tempters. That pattern of good reasons, best of intentions, and pathetic excuses and justifications to blame someone else is as old as apples and temptation. It’s just as lame and weak now as it always was. According to Wall Street Journal articles, Beverly Hall was Superintendant of the Atlanta Public School District when at least 178 teachers have been accused of cheating to elevate student’s test scores en masse. Administrators were also accused of “impeding the investigation, tampering with tests and intimidating teachers.”
Already, “82 of the 178 teachers and administrators implicated admitted to cheating.” No examples of such cheating were found in rural schools. Ms. Hall’s role is not yet clear. The vast majority of Georgia teachers resisted the temptation to cheat and lie.
According to Kyle Wingfield, reporting for the Journal, “Many politicians and teachers have responded to the report by blaming the test and accountability measures like No Child Left Behind. This is exactly the wrong reaction: Atlanta shows us why public schools need more, not fewer, accountability measures.” I agree.
Interim School District Superintendant Erroll Davis Jr. is cleaning house. “At the same time, a former Atlanta deputy superintendent [Beverly Hall] agreed to go on paid leave from a Texas school district that hired her earlier this year.”
The dust will take a long time to settle. I hope Ms. Hall’s lieutenants and all the other teachers involved spend time in prison and then find jobs in which they will not held out as role models to children trying to better themselves. We count on teachers to be role models; to demonstrate the highest standards.
Let’s keep the focus on the overall issue – the reasons, excuses and justifications; the whining, complaining and blaming of bullies, abusers and criminals who want to blame temptation, not themselves.
The problem is not the “No Child Left Behind” mandate or standardized tests – although those aren’t perfect.
The problem is in individual humans who fail, who fall short of the standards they promised to uphold and then want to be left off the hook – no consequences, no punishment.
They used to say, “The Devil made me do it. I had good reasons. It’s not my fault and, therefore, I shouldn’t have to suffer.” Now they say, “Society, the bad rules or system, too much pressure, my bad genes, my bad brain chemistry, my bad upbringing and childhood made me do it. It’s not my fault, I’m a victim and, therefore, I shouldn’t have to suffer.”
Instead, let’s champion individual responsibility in the face of temptation – like all those teachers who resisted temptation. All through history, in every culture at every time, temptation has been acknowledged as a fact of life. And the need to overcome that temptation has been emphasized. Of course we know we won’t always succeed. Some temptations must be avoided in the beginning because we know once we start down a path; we won’t be able to turn back.
The fault is squarely on the heads and hearts of the elites who did not resist the temptation or report the weaklings who hurt all the students in their care. The superintendent, the administrators and the teachers who colluded individually and en masse at cheating parties; the people who failed to fulfill their promise as keepers of children’s futures.
Lord Acton said, “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” as if it’s a foregone conclusion and we’re simply too weak to resist.
But Peter Parker’s uncle said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Like Spiderman, we all have to rise to our responsibilities.